The end of the quarterfinals group stages marks the end for several OGN Overwatch APEX veterans, yet raises the banners for promising upcomers. Lunatic-Hai's championship win streak came to an end at two seasons, while newcomers GC Busan and NC Foxes both have a shot at the first realistic chances for a first-year title since Meta Athena's initial presence in APEX in Season 2. Meanwhile, Cloud 9 Kongdoo came back stronger than ever since its loss to Lunatic-Hai in the finals last season.
The semifinals stage also means that we'll be moving from a best-of-five format to a best-of-seven, with more Escort and Assault maps, which are not seen often in the earlier stages of APEX since not every set goes the full five maps. Here is the map structure:
Map 1: Control
Map 2: Assault/Escort
Map 3: Assault
Map 4: Escort
Map 5: Assault
Map 6: Escort
Map 7: Assault/Escort
Two titans clash for supremacy
On Tuesday, C9 Kongdoo takes on GC Busan in what surely will be the most exciting match of the semifinals. C9K has always had some of the best DPS players in South Korea, and both Kim "Rascal" Dong-jun and Kim "birdring" Ji-hyuk will back that up any day of the week. Joined with fellow DPS players Lee "Curious" Yeong-min, C9K has a terrifying offense and almost all of its matches have have been building synergy between the three of them, adding flexibility with its lineup and difficulty to prepare against.
GC Busan on the other hand has both Lee "Hooreg" Dong-eun and Park "Profit" Joon-yeong. Hooreg's Doomfist and Soldier 76 have been key for GC Busan to function as an offensive team, especially because of how skilled Profit's Tracer has been all season. As has always been true, a strong team in APEX needs a talented hitscan player and a talented Tracer, or a stronger team will run win easily. If this was weeks earlier, a win for C9K would be the likely outcome, but GC Busan has been overcoming expectations.
Both C9K and GC Busan have formidable support and tank players to complete the picture alongside their mighty offensive players making for an exciting match in the making, and maybe even a fierce rivalry for seasons to come. A 4-3 victory either way would not be surprising and even a 4-0 or 4-1 could be closely fought on every map with one team taking the edge. No matter the score, the fight will be fierce. Whichever team wins this fight has a strong chance to take it all.
The test of the Foxes
The second semifinals will take place on Friday, and will feature the showdown between RunAway and newcomer NC Foxes.
The Foxes started off the season constantly subbing out Song "SASIN" Sang-hyeon after the first map, whether or not they won. SASIN began seeing more play on more maps once the tournament entered the second group stage, showing off the fact that it has three powerful DPS in SASIN, Seo "SeoMinSoo" Min-Soo and Kim "E1kiNo" Geun-hyeong. That makes NC Foxes a bit difficult to predict how it'll do against RunAway.
Foxes' path to the semifinals has also been a strange one, having a little bit of an easier group in the beginning of the tournament. Placing higher than Kongdoo Uncia and Flash Lux this season was not a high bar to overcome, and in the quarterfinals group stage it beat LW Red twice and lost to C9K to make it to the semis. LW Red's performance this season was subpar compared to the stronger teams in APEX, making NC Foxes' first real test to be the semifinals against RunAway, which has looked stronger than ever since its unfortunate Season 3 run.
RunAway's star player this season was Lee "Stitch" Chung-hee with clutch pulse bombs from his precise Tracer in every match thus far. It really feels like RunAway has accomplished what it tried to do in Season 3, which was to relinquish the reliance on Yoon "Runner" Dae-hoon's presence in the booth. While his role was vital to keeping his teammates' spirits high, his skill wasn't up to par. A switch was needed and the current state of RunAway is stronger for it now.
It's likely for RunAway to advance to the finals, but the NC Foxes have a lot to offer to the table and simply glancing over its potential would send RA packing. A sweep is unlikely unless one of the team's mentality becomes unsalvageable, but RunAway definitely has the edge entering this semifinals.